ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday October 7, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 19

False and fabricated, says Mihin Air

The Sunday Times Odds and Ends column last week referred to Singaporean civil aviation authorities probing an incident involving Mihin Air. Referring to the snippet headlined "Mihin in for a landing with a thud" carried in our last Sunday’s issue Mihin Air has sent us the following statement:

“The facts presented in the said article are totally false and fabricated. Mihin Lanka has obtained the relevant approvals and clearances from all concerned to operate the flights to Singapore. It is prudent for The Sunday Times to know that a airline registered under a Civil Aviation Authority functioning under the guidelines and directions of ICAO cannot operate a flight without obtaining such clearances as deemed necessary by law and practice.

We strongly suggest to employ an experienced (possibly a very senior retired ATPL licence holder) person to advise the newspaper before publishing such false news.”

OUR REPORTER’S NOTE: We may let the high-flyers at Mihin Air know that at least we do seek advice about matters that are not our speciality, like civil aviation for instance, and it might be good if they follow their own advice themselves. Prior to writing the above story about the airline running a risk in flying a long distance over the sea to Singapore using twin engine airbus aircraft, when such long flights over an ocean require four engine planes, we asked a senior official of the Department of Civil Aviation what they were doing about the latest violation by Mihin Air.He said they were discussing what action should to be taken against the airline. We spoke to this senior official as the Civil Aviation Director General Parakrama Dissanayake was not in the country at the time. We have written a number of articles prior to this also about various wrongs done by this new airline and virtually in all those articles we have duly carried the comments made by the DGCA on the issues raised.

In the past we have made many attempts to get comments from Mihin Air to allegations levelled against it, but all its senior officials we have contacted have refused to answer any of our queries on the ground they are not authorized to speak. On receiving the above statement this week from its Chief Executive Officer Sajin de Vass Gunawardena, we once again raised the issue with DGCA Parakrama Dissanayake and he informed us that the Department had given the okay for Mihin Air to fly its twin-engine Airbus aircraft over the sea to Singapore on the basis the route will be in the vicinity of Fort Blair military airfield on the Andaman Islands and Mihin Air had obtained Indian Government approval to land there in an emergency.

This is on the basis that in case of a failure of one engine an aircraft can fly with its remaining engine for another 60 minutes or 400 nautical miles to make an emergency landing, but aviation sources insisted that Fort Blair is about 490 nautical miles from this route path. They have further warned that Fort Blair was in an area where the weather is often ‘below minimum’ especially at times like these when the monsoon season is in full swing in the Bay of Bengal. Besides, Fort Blair lacks proper and regular weather reporting facilities.

Thirdly, they have pointed out that Fort Blair is open only between 6:30 and 1:00 pm. Interestingly Capt. M.J. Agrawal, Director Naval Air Staff of the Indian Ministry of Defence in a communiqué sent to Mihin Air’s Commercial Manager, New Delhi Ms. Puneet Sharma has stated that Mihin Air flight MJ602 could not be cleared to fly over its air corridor as it fell outside Fort Blair Air Traffic Control Tower’s watch between 6:30 am and 1:00 pm. So, that is what the civil aviation experts tell us, Mr. CEO.

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